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Popular teaching assistant who came to UK when he was nine wins right to stay

Michael Braithwaite, 66, lost job at Gospel Oak school over biometric card

12 April, 2018 — By Helen Chapman

Michael Braithwaite

A POPULAR teaching assistant who lost his job at a Camden school during an immigration crackdown has been told he can stay in the UK after two years in limbo.

Michael Braithwaite, who worked at Gospel Oak primary school, was dismissed in 2016 after being asked to produce a biometric card for working migrants. He came to Britain with his family from Barbados in 1961 when he was nine years old. Mr Braithwaite was told this week that the Home Office have granted him leave to stay.

Parents and children at Gospel Oak had rallied in support of “amazing” Mr Braithwaite, now 66, after he was dismissed for not having the correct documents.

“I didn’t have a clue what it [a biometric card] was,” Mr Braithwaite told the New Journal this week. “I had sleepless nights. I became ill. I would go to Hampstead Heath in the morning and sit on Kite Hill at about 5 o’clock in the morning, thinking that when I come home…what’s going to happen if there’s a knock at the door. I started blaming myself a lot. I thought, I can’t blame dad, I can’t blame mum, they just came here with the ­Windrush thinking everyone is British.”

He added: “On Friday, when I got the call from Enny [his solicitor], I exhaled all the negative stuff… I felt relieved. I lifted my shoulders and something had left.”

Mr Braithwaite went to Torriano Primary School as a child and City and Islington College as a young adult. He has three children and five grandchildren and lives in Mansfield Road, Gospel Oak. A musician, he also joined the Gospel Oak parents’ choir. In 2013, Theresa May, then Home Secretary, introduced measures that required employers to run checks for papers documenting proof of rights to live in the country.

Last night (Wednesday), the New Journal spoke to the council’s schools chief, Angela Mason, who said she knew nothing about Mr Braithwaite’s case at the time. She added: “I’m sure we would have been very concerned and schools would have been concerned as well, which is why I’m surprised I haven’t heard about it. I haven’t heard of these sorts of cases happening in Camden myself.”

Councillor Nasim Ali, whose children were at the school when Mr Braithwaite was working there, said: “It’s disgusting the Home Office took so long to resolve his immigration status. It doesn’t consider people’s feelings if they are mentally disturbed by this. “I can’t see any reason they couldn’t have resolved it sooner.”

Cllr Ali suggested that it was not the council’s responsibility to get “directly” involved in the case, adding: “What we do as Camden Council is provide the grounds to guide people on where to go to get legal advice in situations like this, whether it’s the Citizens Advice Bureau or the law centre.”

Today (Thursday) Mr Braithwaite is scheduled to meet with the High Commissioner of Barbados.

Enny Choudhury, Mr Braithwaite’s solicitor from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: “Theresa May’s hostile environment means countless people with every right to be in the UK are being hounded for papers and documents that no one ever expected to need. “With people like Michael, who arrived many years ago as British subjects and Commonwealth citizens, it’s against human decency to start from the presumption they have no right to be here.”

A Home Office statement said: “We have now been in touch with Mr Braithwaite and have issued him with the documentation needed to confirm his status here in the UK.”

Mr Braithwaite is due to be issued with his biometric card this week. He says he is now planning to go on holiday – he has been unable to leave the country for two years – and will then “pop down to the school” to make enquiries about the possibility of getting his job back.

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